Posted tagged ‘free software’

On why FOSS is vital for science…

26 November 2009

From this article on Journal on Science and World Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2007

An Africa institution of higher learning has ‘got’ FOSS exactly right. Any hope for Indian centres of learning?

So why is open source software so vital for science? In the introduction to Voices from the Open Source Revolution, Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman, and Mark Stone point out:

Science is ultimately an Open Source enterprise.

The scientific method rests on a process of discovery, and a process of justification. or scientific results to be justified, they must be replicable. Replication is not possible unless the source is shared: the hypothesis, the test conditions, and the results. The process of discovery can follow many paths, and at times scientific discoveries do occur in isolation.

But ultimately the process of discovery must be served by sharing information: enabling other scientists to go forward where one cannot; pollinating the ideas of others so that something new may grow that otherwise would not have been born .

Where scientists talk of replication, Open Source programmers talk of debugging.

Where scientists talk of discovering, Open Source programmers talk of creating.

Ultimately, the Open Source movement is an extension of the scientific method, because at the heart of the computer industry lies computer science.

This shared method benefits both the industrial and scientific communities. Science gains a ready platform for distributing its ideas, and industry gains a wellspring of freely available ideas and innovations from which to construct new products and services. Ultimately, the free availability of information will help Africa to become competitive in the global economy, as well as turn the focus of technological innovation towards the real problems of the continent.


The only reasons I can think why Indian institutions aren’t already doing something like this en masse, in what appears to be a no-brainer as far as the nation’s best interests are concerned, are mediocrity, ignorance, carelessness, incompetence, laziness and greed!

Read more about this issue on this blog here:

Image credits – Tux (authors Larry Ewing, Simon Budig and Anja Gerwinski) & Gnu (Aurelio A. Heckert) from Wikimedia Commons. Free Software Foundation’s ‘join us’ tag from their web site, under fair use!

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